Sunday 1:00 PM EST
Falcons @ Giants -3
Hexagram 22: 贲Brightness
Under these circumstances, outward presentation is an important factor. Surface appearance can give us a lot of information and in most cases our initial instinct that is the correct one. Reflecting on these teams in this way, one thing stands out to me more than the anything; the inability of the Giants to play well when they are supposed to play well.
The Giants have had several chances to take control of the NFC East this season only to lose games against teams they should beat at the worst possible times. They lost to Seattle at home as double digit favorites after starting 3-1. They gave away in the division against a Vince Young led Eagles team, also a home game. Then they lost in their home stadium to my putrid Redskins in Week 15 when a win would have pretty much sealed the division. For the year, the Giants played seven games at home in which they were favored. Out of those games, they won four, but only covered the spread in two. Their tendency to not get up for every game is troubling in the playoffs, where one loss ends your season.
The Giants needing the “Nobody believes in us” attitude to win is nothing new to this year. It was maybe the defining characteristic of their playoff run and eventual Super Bowl upset to foil the perfect Patriot season that seemed destined. The Giants issues with consistency are about 99% to do with Eli Manning. While he has shown to can raise his games to the highest level when it is all on the line, he has also been known to have an awful game once in a while. In those three bad home losses, he threw 7 of his 16 interceptions on the road. That’s almost half in just three games. As long as you get Good Eli, you’re in great shape, but if Bad Eli decides to show up, then he will take the Giants down with him.
I wonder how much this has to do with being Peyton Manning’s little brother. He is fueled by a completely mental inferiority complex that is so intense that I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason they beat New England in the Super Bowl was just because his brother or dad told him they didn’t think he could do it. But somehow he can’t find the extra motivation to beat up bad teams when he is the favorite.
As long as people are telling Eli Manning he can’t do something, the Giants will be fine. But, there’s too many people out there picking them as the NFC dark horse now, too many people saying Eli had a secretly great season that was overwhelmed by Brees, Brady and Rogers, basically way too many people on the Giants’ dicks; and that’s my cue to jump off the bandwagon.
The Falcons and Matt Ryan had the truly great under the radar season this year. Their 10-6 record seems a lot better when you remember that half of their losses were to the Saints and Packers. Matty Ice had the career year that no one is talking about, throwing 29 touchdown passes to just 12 interceptions. Compare that Eli’s same number of touchdowns and 4 more picks. Atlanta has a solid offensive line and has protected Ryan well this year, giving up 26th sacks good for 6th best in the league. They are as well suited as any team to matchup with the Giants dynamic pass rush, but if Matt Ryan is given time to throw, he can exploit the 29th ranked pass defense of the G-Men.
I think these teams are very even and it will be a close game even if Good Eli shows up. But given the Giants’ and Manning’s tendency to underperform when favored at home, I give the edge to the Falcons.